Matangi Island Resort – Fijian Culture
The owners and staff at Matangi are very proud of their Fijian culture and heritage. A simple walk around the beach resort will allow you to see native Fijian handicraft decorations. All of Matangi’s Fiji style bures are decorated with traditional crafts. Resort guests are invited to participate in cultural activities as a part of their holiday. Experience a traditional Fijian kava ceremony, visit a village on a neighboring island, or enjoy local Fijian musical groups who perform at the resort.
Kava Ceremony & Kava Drinking
Yaqona, kava drinking ceremonies
As a guest in Fiji, you will frequently be invited to participate in one of the most common ceremonial and social customs in the islands, the Kava Ceremony. The drinking of kava, or Yaqona, is quite common on social occasions. It is regarded in Fiji as “the National Drink”. In the past, Yagona was drunk only by chiefs.
Kava is made from the bare root of a pepper tree, pounded into a fine powder and then mixed with fresh water. Near Matangi Island, the family grows and exports kava root to the United States and Europe for use in homeopathic drugs and over-the-counter pills to aid in relaxation.
But in the Fiji Islands, the old customs still prevail. In fact, turning down an offer to drink a bowl of Yagona is considered insulting in Fijian society. In traditional times, Yagona was prepared by young village girls, who chewed the pieces of raw Yagona into a soft pulp before adding water. Today, the chief or head of the ceremony mixes the powdered root with water in a large hardwood bowl, called a Tanoa, straining the root through a cloth to keep out the grit. When it is ready, he claps with cupped hands to make a hollow “pop” sound.
Sitting crossed legged on the floor, guests are arranged in a circle. Each guest in turn is offered a bilo, a small bowl made from half of a coconut, containing the liquid. He or she must clap before and after drinking. Honored guests are served first, then others according to their status in the group. The drink should not be sipped. It should be drunk in one continuous drink. The clapping of hands and the word “maca” signifies that you have properly emptied your bilo.
Kava has a pleasant calming effect on the body, while leaving the mind clear. Unlike alcohol, there are no hangovers
The Fijian Language
One of the most common greetings in the Fijian language means “health” or “life”.
This is a shortened form of the greeting “Ni sa bula”, used as a greeting to a number of people.
In Fiji, you hear and see this greeting, Bula, most often. It is as common as “Hello”.
There are others that are simple and handy to know. Ni sa Moce (c is pronounced “th”) means “sleep” but is used to say goodnight or goodbye. Ni sa yadra (pronounce an “n sound before the “dr”) is “Good Morning”. And of course, one of the most useful phrases in any language, “Thank You”, is Vinaka or Vinaka vaka-levu, which means “Thank you very much”.
As in other parts of the South Pacific Islands, the Fiji Islands developed many languages, some similar and some very different. Missionaries in the 1840’s chose the language of one island off the southeast of the main island of Viti Levu, to be the official language of Fiji. This island, Bau, was home to Cakobau, the chief that eventually became the “King” of Fiji. Missionaries were interested in documenting a language and in standardizing all of Fiji on one official language to make their job of translating and teaching in Fiji a bit easier.
Many words are borrowed from English. In Fijian, “Where is the”, E vei na is a useful phase to know. For many visitors, E vei na positovesi?, “Where is the post office?” and E vei na baqe?, “Where is the bank?”, are useful questions that use borrowed English words for post office and bank. E vei na nona vale ni turaga? “Where is the chief’s house?” and E vei na vale ni kana? “Where is the restaurant?” are a bit less obvious. However if you know that a house is vale, eat is kana and the chief is called turaga, you can translate these as well.
“Na Koro” is the Fijian phrase for “Village”. Na Koro is made up from people of the same clan.
Na Koro is ruled by a chief, called the “Tui” in Fijian. Next to the Chief is the Chief maker or chief-in-training, called “Bete”, followed by the chief appointees called the Mata-ni-vanua and then the rest of the clan as cooks, hunters and fisherman, etc. A former part of the clan, called “Bokola”, no longer exists. Bokola were prisoners of Fiji’s tribal wars and in former times were considered as a part of the village.
In Na Koro, the village spokesman, Turaga-ni-Koro or Mayor of the village, is chosen by a meeting of all the clan. The Turaga-ni-Koro arranges meetings with the villagers and notifies the Tui of the results. He also notifies the villagers of anything that comes from the Tui.
Each day of the week involves different commitments from the village. Church work, the village school, and cleaning the village as well as other activities are handled on their specific day. All of the work has to be completed in 5 days each week. Since many Fijians are Christian, Saturday is a preparation day for food, etc. On Sunday, Christians go to church services, rest and lunch with their families.
Everyday life in Fijian villages is simple because Fijians don’t believe in time or watches.
Masi Cloth – Fijian Bark Cloth Painting
Masi Cloth – Bark Cloth Making
Fiji is well known for its beautiful hand made Masi cloth, a traditional bark-cloth made from the Paper Mulberry tree. These natural colored cloths are recognized by the intricate patterns that are stenciled, stamped or smoked onto the fabric.
The bark of young trees is stripped, and the bark and inner layer soaked and worked by scraping with a shell and pounding on a large log with a special tool to flatten and widen the material. Women generally do the pounding, and you frequently can hear them working in the villages.
After the material is initially beaten and worked, it is beaten again onto another piece of bark, or it is dried and glued onto another sheet. It is then dried and the patterns are stenciled onto the newly prepared fabric. Current-day patterns include bures, canoes, flowers and turtles.
Masi cloth holds a place of honor in Fijian traditional ceremonies such as marriage, birth, worship and death ceremonies. It is also used in homes as decoration and privacy curtains. In earlier days, it was used as a primary source of clothing material.
As a guest, you can expect to see Masi cloth used to decorate Matangi’s bures, in traditional wedding ceremonies and on items in the Boutique. On a village visit, you may have the experience of seeing the cloth in the making.